7 Surprising Environmentally Friendly Weed Killers and Insecticides

Forget about chemical sprays - these nifty eco-friendly ideas will keep your garden looking and feeling good

These ingenious methods for killing weeds and slowing insects will delight the environmentally friendly gardener

Gardeners trying to keep their yards in tip-top condition face many challenges, but two problems regularly pop up: weeds that grow faster and higher than plants and flowers, and, if you’re a backyard farmer growing fruit and veggies, competition from hungry insects.

Choosing environmentally friendly weed killers and insecticides that won’t harm children or pets adds to the degree of difficulty, but luckily a quick look around the house can provide safe and helpful products.

Vinegar: The Weed Killer

Pulling weeds is an annoying and time-consuming problem. Spraying weeds with weed killer is quicker, but as people become more environmentally conscious they don’t want to use a spray product that’s bad the environment.

Just about everyone keeps vinegar in the house, but not everyone realizes it’s a natural weed killer. Put it in a spray bottle and attack weeds around the yard. For larger or tougher weeds, use an entire cup of vinegar. Vinegar baths also keep unwanted cats out of the garden.

Remove Weeds in the Cracks

Everyone has to deal with ugly dandelions and thistles that sprout out of the cracks in the driveway and sidewalks. There are a couple of different ways you can tackle this problem.

Pour four ounces of lemon juice into a spray bottle and fill to the top with vinegar, then simply spray the weeds.

Alternatively, an inexpensive solution is to use boiled water. Pouring it on the weeds can be an effective deterrent.

Suffocate Weeds with Newspapers

Do you receive newspapers or flyers that just end up in the blue recycle bin? If you have a larger area where weeds keep returning, place newspapers on the ground, soak them with water, and slap them on top of the weeds, effectively suffocating them. Putting mulch on top of the newspaper should significantly reduce growth. This should be repeated every few years.

Use Stinging Nettles as Fertilizer

If you have stinging nettles growing in your yard, turn them into fertilizer to feed the rest of your garden.

Take care when dealing with stinging nettles because this is one weed that fights back. Cover up as much of your body as possible – long pants, long sleeved shirt or jacket, closed toe shoes, and heavy gloves are recommended.

Stinging Nettle Fertilizer

The stinging nettle tea fertilizer is a good choice for annuals, perennials, roses, and fruit trees.

  1. Using clippers or scissors, snip away at stinging nettle plants.
  2. Put the clipped stinging nettles into a bucket.
  3. If desired, use hedge clippers for a finer cut.
  4. Place a rock or brick in the bucket to help hold the leaves down.
  5. Add enough water to the bucket to cover the nettles. This helps with decomposition.
  6. To speed up the process, cover the bucket and place it in a warm, sunny spot.
  7. Stir the mixture every day or so.
  8. Repeat for the next two weeks.
  9. Use a colander or another type of strainer to pour liquid into a separate bucket.
  10. Discard leftover decomposed nettles into a compost pile or a green garden waste bin.
  11. Mix 10 parts water to one part nettle tea.
  12. Pour directly to base of plants to feed the root area.

Oil: The Organic Pesticide

There’s nothing more annoying than checking the apple tree or rose bush and seeing that insects have taken up residence. If you find eggs hiding there, snipping off the infected leaves doesn’t always solve the problem. Put mineral oil or vegetable cooking oil into a spray bottle and spray on the leaves of plants where insects dwell. The oil dehydrates and gets rid of both the insects and their eggs.

Hot Sauce Insecticide

Have you ever touched a hot pepper and had it irritate your skin? It has the same effect on bugs!

Whip up this cocktail and watch the bugs scamper:

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 Tbsp. hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot)
  • A good squirt of mild dish soap or shampoo
  • 1 chopped garlic

Combine water, soap and pepper sauce. Add garlic, cover, and let sit for 24 hrs. Strain the garlic from the mixture and spray on plants.

Slug Bait

We have a lot of slugs in British Columbia and they really enjoy munching through young plants in the garden. They like to hide under weeds, so eliminating their shelter is a good first step. If you can get your hands on some sawdust (livestock feed store should carry bags), sprinkle it around the garden; slugs don’t like to crawl over scratchy surfaces.

My mother’s all-time favorite slug remedy is placing a grapefruit upside down in the garden. Because slugs like hiding under dark, moist areas, they’ll crawl inside at night when they’re foraging in the garden for food. In the morning toss the grapefruit and slugs into the compost pile or a green waste bin, where they’ll help break down the compost.

7 Environmentally Friendly Weed Killers